- Great price
- GPX routes on watch
- Accurate HR
- Interface still fiddly
- No post-workout summaries
- Not so stylish
When it comes to all-action multisport outdoors watches, the options are, well, expensive. The Garmin Fenix 3 – soon to be Fenix 5 – is the standout champion, with the likes of Suunto close behind, but expect to lay out in excess of $500.
Enter the TomTom Adventurer. An all-action sports watch made in the mould of Wareable favourite the TomTom Spark 3, but opened up for all manner of outdoor activities, such as trail running, hiking and skiing, as well as running and cycling.
At it's hardly small change, but it's a significant improvement over the competition, for those looking to hit the slopes and the great outdoors this season. But does it match Garmin et al in terms of data, versatility and longevity? We tested the TomTom Adventurer across three continents to find out.
TomTom Adventurer: Design
We've lambasted sports watches in the past for being almost unwearable during the day, but we'll spare our criticisms with the Adventurer. While it's unashamedly plastic and sporty, we dug the orange strap and flatter design, and though we still wouldn't wear it out to dinner, it actually carried some personality.
It's really light too, which is a plus over the likes of the Fenix 3. It doesn't weigh much more than a basic running watch. The watch module pops out of the strap for charging, and clips back in securely.
You navigate the watch's menus via the four-way button under the screen, which enables you to glide between the watch's options, settings and training modes. It's pretty easy to navigate and on the whole, very intuitive. There are a couple of niggly complaints still, like the way you need to basically start a run to see the battery life and how you don't get a summary of a workout until you find the obscure history list (again, you need to start a run). But the four-way button makes it easy to change data view mid-run, it's quick to implement fairly complex interval sessions, and it doesn't matter if you have sweaty hands, or gloves on.
TomTom Adventurer: Features
As with most multisport watches, the TomTom Adventurer is pretty feature-rich. We're going to evaluate the different sports in more depth below, but there are dedicated modes for running, cycling, hiking, skiing/snowboarding, trail running, indoor cycling/running and standard open workouts.
That's not quite as complete as the Fenix, which included paddleboarding and a whole host of random sports, but bear in mind that many of those modes are simply just GPS and heart rate data without any sport-specific metrics.
That said, we missed a kayaking/canoeing mode when we took to the water on holiday, so we would like to see more sports catered for. We just stuck the watch into hiking mode instead.
As well as GPS data, the TomTom Adventurer features a heart rate monitor on the underside, as well as a bevy of other sensors. The accelerometer works for all-day activity tracking, which is displayed on the watch, showing steps, distance and calories. The heart rate data isn't leveraged here for all-day resting heart rate and more detailed calorific burn, which is a shame. We also found that the watch didn't store a whole lot of data without syncing – we suffered a bunch of missing dates in India when we couldn't sync the watch for a couple of weeks, which is something to be aware of.
There are also atmospheric sensors including a barometer, which adds elevation data to hiking and skiing modes.
However, the TomTom Adventurer has a trick up its sleeve. In addition to all the sports tracking, its route exploration mode offers a genuine reason to take note. This mode enables you to upload GPX routes to the watch via the TomTom web app, which you can then follow on the watch.
That might sound a bit too advanced for some, but the benefits are tangible. We created running routes in Strava (an awesome tool for finding popular trails and dodging hills) then added them to the TomTom and followed them easily. One route was a 12-mile run across London from work to home, around roads we'd never have navigated otherwise.
It also lets you take advantage of some of the brilliant walking routes you can dig up online. We wish we'd had the Adventurer with us on a previous hike at Glencoe in Scotland, as we tried to follow a beautiful and lesser-known trail where the path had faded beneath a carpet of heather and gorse. Adding GPX is a real game changer for hikers, runners and cyclists alike, and one of the best reasons to plump for an Adventurer.
The only bugbear with this feature is the need to calibrate the compass. This involves some rather random arm-swishing, which we found a little temperamental. We also found the TomTom Adventurer irritatingly slow to get a lock-on to GPS.
Of course, another big benefit is the addition of integrated music listening, and you get 3GB of storage and the ability to pair wireless headphones. Like the Spark, it's a little fiddly to get your headphones paired, and our Jabra buds took some work. The official TomTom headphones are a dream to pair, but ours packed in pretty quickly.
And a word on battery life. It's heavily dependent on your activity, but we found around 10 days of activity tracking, five hours of GPS tracking and in excess of 14 hours of hiking.
TomTom Adventurer: Hiking
As a hiking watch, the TomTom Adventurer does a superb job. You can get a map of your heading if you're not using a pre-loaded GPX route, and although this did go awry on one hike in South India, that was an issue with the aforementioned calibration, and other walks were perfectly mapped.
You can see data on distance, duration, pace, elevation gained and descended and heart rate during the walk. You also get a live compass, which is very useful if you're following a good old-fashioned paper map, and you can take advantage of GPX uploads here, too.
And it's that use of GPX uploads for hiking which for our money makes it a better buy than previous favourite the Garmin Fenix 3. While you get the same detailed data there, the ability to upload a walking route and ensure you're sticking to it is a big deal for hardcore ramblers. We loved it.
Of course, the key thing you'll want to be sure of is battery life. TomTom claims 24 hours of battery when hiking, though we're not sure you get that in reality. You'll certainly get a full day's walking, but you might want to find a way to juice up if you're on a multi-day trail.
TomTom Adventurer: Running and cycling
As passionate runners, the TomTom Adventurer needed to stack up here. The watch features two running modes, and we were pleased to see an option for trails as well.
As you'd expect, running modes are ripped from the TomTom Spark 3, and that's a wise choice. The Spark 3 is a great running watch, and this means the Adventurer excels, too. Firstly, you get all the data you need on the easy-to-read screen, and we've never had any accuracy issues.
In running modes you can cycle between live pace, average pace, distance, time, heart rate and heart rate zone. If you opt for a trail run, you can add elevation stats as well. It's a great mix of features that's well laid out and easy to read.
Cyclists get speed instead of pace, and ascent details as well.
And while the TomTom app and ecosystem is now much improved – more on that shortly – it's easy to connect the Adventurer to Strava, so what more do you need?
TomTom Adventurer: Skiing
The rugged outdoor GPS watch is certainly comfortable enough to wear all day for 24/7 activity tracking, including heart rate, sleep stats, steps, etc. And the addition of the barometer means that in ski and snowboard modes you get metrics like gradient and altitude change in addition to things like maximum speed and distance. Other than the stiffness of the button, which we found a little difficult to click through our mittens and took another minute or two to use because were taking them off, we found the Adventurer simple to set up and use in snowboard mode.
The ski and snowboard tracking works well; just be warned that the battery drains more quickly when using sports modes, so you should be fully charged if you want to track a full day on the slopes. GPS pick-up is swift as well, usually only taking a minute or so to get ready for tracking.
It's so light and comfortable that it's easy to turn it on at the beginning of the day and forget about it. That may be why the automatic lift detection automatically alerts you and makes the watch buzz when you're in the chair, so you can remember to look down and see your stats from the previous run flash on the screen. It provides a snapshot of your last run, including maximum speed, distance of descent in metres and steepest incline.
The route exploration feature also allows you to share your hike or ride with a file that your friends can download to their device and use to trace your route, based on coordinates. Though that feature is mostly relevant for hikers, it's a good fit for off-piste skiers and snowboarders as well.
TomTom Adventurer: Heart rate accuracy
Chest strap (l) and TomTom (r): Two MHRs of 191, 2bpm apart over 4 miles
For hardcore trainers, heart rate is paramount and we're pleased to report excellent accuracy across steady and high-intensity runs. Average paces were locked onto our Garmin chest strap and the Jabra Sport Pulse SE buds that aced our tests last year.
What's more, peaks in heart rate were also accurately represented, and displayed quickly onto the device in real time. That demonstrates not only a robust sensor but lag-free implementation, which makes it highly usable for those focusing on biometrics as part of their training.
TomTom continues to be our pick of the optical heart rate crop.
TomTom Adventurer: The app
One of our big bugbears with TomTom devices has been the ecosystem, and we've reserved specific criticisms for the terrible smartphone app. Well, those issues have been addressed, and the new app is a big improvement.
Firstly, syncing is now much quicker and easier – that was the biggest issue. And now there's a better and clearer mix of workout and activity data within the app. We're also fans of the snippets of analysis, which show when you're working out better or worse than your averages.
However, for actual workouts we're still much more likely to view and analyse them in Strava, which is the best in the business, for our money. But that's no slight on TomTom's new app, which is no longer a black mark against buying a device, and that's a significant improvement.
How we test